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Analytics Agency Management: There is no “you” or “your”

I remember when I was reviewing the first work product of one of my first Analysts at Sepiida, I had her correct all the “you” and “your” (e.g. “your site”) to “we” or “the site”.  It seemed small, and we didn’t talk much about it.  But when I found I had to do it again with her, and also with another team member, it struck me as an opportunity to take some time out to chat with my whole team about our values.  You see, one of the reasons I started Sepiida was that I had hired many agencies in the past, and always felt like there was this “us” and “them” schism.  It might have come up with respect to billing, to level of investment in delivering PRACTICAL doable solutions rather than really beautiful or creative ones that would take ages to implement, to availability during non-traditional hours, and so on.

It ended up meaning that I didn’t feel like the agency was a partner, but a vendor.  And vendors are replaceable.  Partners require a break-up.  Semantics?  Maybe, but to me, it meant something.

Our talk at Sepiida was that it is often easy when you are working in a client’s data to become disconnected from the client as a set of people with goals, pressures, realities, etc.  Working with numbers (in tools like RJMetrics, KISSMetrics, SiteCatalyst) can make you forget about not just the client as people, but also the website as the thing that the client’s customers (our real target) interacts with.  So when I would see presentations that said “We recommend you” or “Your site should be updated to”, I cringed.  This isn’t the client’s site – this is our site too.  If we were to truly embody the way I described us to our clients – as extensions of their analytics and marketing teams – then this was definitely our site, our email, etc.  We had to take ownership.  If we didn’t, then we would be highly like to recommend optimizations that were great in concept, but not pragmatic.  If you don’t know by now, that’s my pet peeve.

Having been in a variety of agency environments, I can attest to the fact that whichever team members consistently used the words “they” or “the client” were the ones just looking to perform to expectations and/or billable hours.  To me, that’s anathema – as analytics services professionals, we have to perform to delivery of the optimization, the measurable impact.  Otherwise, what’s the point?

So why am I writing about this today…as I am almost 2 months into launching the services practice at RJMetrics, I am reminded that even with technology/software products, it’s either the “them” of the customer or the “us” of the mutual endeavor to use a product to deliver some tangible benefit.  I am not writing this post to sell the team or product at RJ.  I’ve written previously that I think the team at RJ is awesome.  I’m writing this post because as I am putting together today a visualization of how services fit into customer  interactions at RJ, I realized that I haven’t needed to have the conversation with anyone here about “you” or “them”.  And that led me to think about whether that is an anomaly – i.e. it’s just something that I haven’t encountered yet – or is it a manifestation of something else in the culture…something I’d like to understand better and foster here and wherever I land next.  So I went into the company kitchen, and was about to put a used knife in the sink – without washing it – and then decided to go ahead and wash it and the other dishes there.  That’s when it hit me…a company that understands “our” is a company where other people have definitely washed my used dishes.  It’s one where no one, even new hires, ever gripes about calls that happen with our many international customers at all hours of the night.  Where we’ve gotten a lot of praise for our customer support.  It’s about getting the job done.

And this struck me as a broader lesson – while “the job” to me in this context is optimizing a KPI, in life “the job” might be to have a successful marriage or relationship with your family or kids.  It might be getting to the next milestone in your company’s evolution.  Whatever it is for you in your context, I recommend adopting this mindset.  It helps you go the extra mile, get invested, fight to the end to accomplish the goal.

In the world of analytics services specifically, we have to move beyond thinking our role is delivering the data and reports – the “what happened” – or even recommendations that seem smart.  An analyst’s greatest value is being able to provide a winning recommendation that is backed up by data.  A “winning recommendation” means it was implementable (which means it took account a variety of the client’s environmental factors).  That’s how you prove you thought deeply about “them”.


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